Haiti earthquake diary: UN briefing trumpets progress

Banks are reopening, police are getting back to work, gas stations are once again becoming operational. Oh, and soft drink distribution should be at 100 percent by the end of next week.

Jorge Silva/REUTERS
A woman sits in front a people lining up in a bank in Port-au-Prince Tuesday. The United Nations says that banks in the country are starting to reopen this month's devastating earthquake.

Sunday, Jan. 24

In its weekend briefing, the UN peacekeeping force that has been here since 2004 tells us that banks are reopening. I see evidence of this with long, long lines. There's no way even a tenth of the people standing in the lines will get inside.

The UN also says that 70 percent of the Haitian National Police are back at work. I see evidence of this, too, with patrols on the streets, controlling the crowds by the banks and by the Western Union, MoneyGram, and CAM bureaus – the three places where remittances can be sent from abroad, from "lot bo dlo," the other side of the sea.

In the city of Jacmel, more than 120 people have been rescued and 8,700 people in eight camps are getting food and water from the UN, according to the briefing. I wonder about Ti Goave, where 75 percent of the buildings are gone. And what about towns closer to the epicenter of the Jan. 12 quake: Léogâne, Miragoâne, Grand Goave?

According to the briefing, 30 percent of the gas stations are once again operational. I can believe it. Traffic is outrageous, worse than I remember when I left for good by the end of 1998. At that time it was impossible to go anywhere without sitting in fume-invested lines for a half hour to go two blocks. Better to walk if it weren’t for the pollution. Now the lines don’t move. What used to take 20 minutes to go across town now takes two hours. It’s really hard to get anything done.

The UN also says that soft drink distribution is at 50 percent and should be at 100 percent by the end of next week. I wonder why this particular detail is crucial for the briefing, but in these times, any morsel of good news is to be savored. Supermarkets are expected to open slowly.

I explain all this to the PBS crew that comes in, and from them I understand something else.

I am finally beginning to realize just how much press this crisis has provoked. Joanne, the producer whom I know as both a colleague and friend, points out that this kind of coverage of Haiti is unprecedented. It's reporting that doesn’t present Haiti in a vile, vicious, violent light but shows a remarkable sense of community, resilience, and resourcefulness. The world is seeing Haiti in the light under which it shines best.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.